Jeff and David have been working together now for almost ten years, but their latest recording embraced an approach and a technology that was unlike anything they had ever done before.
Plans were well in hand for a vintage style recording project at Abbey Road Studios. Studio Two was booked, the parts printed and distributed, the 60 or so handpicked world-class musician were ready to go and Jeff was due in from Chicago in a few days’ time.
And then Covid-19 happened and the world changed.
No Jeff from America, no Abbey Road (closed for the first time in 89 years), no musicians to work with – just lockdown and social distancing.
Popular wisdom says that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. David and Jeff went further – and opened their own lemonade factory. And with a lot of hard work – and some great technology from Vienna Mir Pro – they recorded and mixed a track in a virtual space – one instrument at a time.
Says David: “As soon as the lockdown happened, the impact was immediate. It was distressing to see great musicians left immediately without work and scratching their heads as to how to survive without their normal income.
“So, we tried to be a little proactive. We managed to put together a group of the musicians (many of whom would have been on the session) who had excellent remote recording facilities of their own. We decided to try to record one of the songs from the session just to see how it would turn out when recorded entirely remotely, one instrument at a time.”
The line up (how it’s intended to sound, not how many people played!) was
- Flutes and piccolo,
- Two clarinets,
- Bass clarinet,
- Two bassoons,
- Four French horns,
- Four trumpets,
- Three trombones,
- Eight first violins,
- Eight second violins,
- Six violas,
- Four cellos, and a
Jeff explains: “We discussed in detail with players the logistics of sending and receiving files, file formats etc. We asked our lead violinist to mark up the string parts so that all of the players could articulate similarly. We also discussed the merits (or not) of recording fewer players with more takes or recording more players but with fewer overdubs. In the end, we went for a middle ground, with players changing instruments and seating positions where conditions allowed. We decided that we’d opt for a reasonably close mic formula from everyone so as to remove the different nuances of so many different ambiences.
“We sent click tracks and demo playalongs to our rhythm section first and then added that to our playalong, which we then sent to our brass and wind, with strings and harp going on last in the same way. After receiving files back from players, we were pleasantly surprised how cohesive the playing was, although there were a couple of tuning issues that we had to fix (given that no one could tune to each other).”
Then came the hard part as David recalls: “The really tricky part for us was approaching the mix.
“We’ve obviously worked on mixes before that have recordings from disparate places but nothing remotely as large as this. It was crucial that it appeared as if everyone was in the same room playing together. We turned to Vienna MIR Pro with Synchron Stage RoomPack to make that happen.
“We had been aware of Vienna MIR Pro, but never needed to use it. So it was with some interest we loaded it into the project. We were both incredibly impressed with the results. The ability to move players around within a virtual soundstage using varying degrees of effect brought the individual sterile recordings to life, as though the musicians were seated next to each other on the sound stage. We were equally impressed by how easy it was to manage.
“Having never used the plugin before we both easily found our way around and were able to get a pleasing product even though we used only a fraction of the plugin’s capabilities. We now both look forward to experimenting and growing with Vienna MIR Pro as well as finding different new ways to utilise this unique and innovative plugin. “